Have you seen Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business News, where, paraphrasing Elon Musk, he trashes California High Speed Rail, calling it “1960s Japanese technology” that will be “one of the greatest embarrassments in the history of California governance”?
Ellison tells Bartiromo that, by 2040, people will be traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles in electric autonomous cars and vans for about “$25 bucks.” High speed rail, he says, is “very strange,” “ludicrous” and “a crazy system.” He almost directly quotes Elon Musk, who not long ago said that platoons of his autonomous electric semi-trucks would make freight trains obsolete.
This is what Musk has said about public transportation:
“I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people that doesn’t leave when you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, and doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time. It’s a pain in the ass. That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s, like, a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport that goes where you want, when you want.”
Actually, autonomous vehicles—electric, hybrid, whatever—will create more traffic congestion. In a recent New York Times editorial, urban planner Peter Calthorpe says that “Silicon Valley has it all wrong. He rejects the ideas of tech industry visionaries who say personal autonomous vehicles will soon be the solution to urban problems like traffic congestion … He is not opposed to autonomous vehicles. Mr. Calthorpe’s quarrel is with the idea that the widespread adoption of personally owned self-driving cars will solve transportation problems. In fact, he worries it will lead to more urban congestion and suburban sprawl.”
Now, getting back to Ellison, let’s take a cursory glance at the numbers: California’s high-speed train will be able to get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in roughly three hours, center-city to center-city, at an average of speed of around 175 mph, on a dedicated right-of-way, where every train operates at the same speed, and under the same train control system. Based on high-speed rail systems in other countries—pick one, say, China—I’d say that’s a fairly accurate assessment. (But what do I know? I’ve only been at this railroad trade journalism business for a mere 26-plus years.)
Now, speaking as a “car guy” who appreciates high-performance motoring, if you wanted to do the same SF-LA run in an automobile, you would need the autonomous equivalent of a Bugatti Chiron or McLaren Senna or, on the bargain end, a Corvette ZR-1 (I’ll take the Corvette, thank you very much). You’d need a dedicated, traffic-jam-free highway that would probably cost a lot more to build and maintain than a 175-mph railroad. Let’s face it folks, it’s not a good idea to attempt 175 mph on our existing roads, especially in traffic. What is your hyper-car going to do when it comes up on the rear bumper of a slower vehicle? Sprout wings and fly over it?
Here’s George Jetson!
As far as I’m concerned, the only Oracle is the one in Omaha. You know, the one who bought an entire freight railroad (which, if you think about it, is the latest iteration of technology devised in the early 19th century) because he considered it a solid long-term investment.
Awesome, Matt Rose!
Here’s the YouTube link to Ellison’s interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVPZ7GpFUPc.
Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life on Fox Business News.